The gradually developing excitement, that feeling of pressure to effectively bring all of your new skills together for one final project, the realization that it’s all coming to an end; working through the final capstone project for your MBA program is such a unique, stimulating experience that brings with it a whirlwind of emotions as the “finish line” comes into crystal clear focus.
As part of a large initiative in Minneapolis, our team worked with People’s Center to develop a strategic marketing plan for a new wellness center, which will provide education and classes promoting proactive healthcare. From this project, People’s Center now has workbook-style templates for their team to work on together in order to develop a defined brand, strategy, and tactical marketing plan in order to reach, engage with, and welcome their diverse target market.
As we presented the deliverables to People’s Center, I couldn’t help but reflect on the invaluable lessons our team learned from this experience, which we will undoubtedly carry with us throughout the rest of our professional careers. Here are the top 8 project management skills we learned while working through our final capstone project:
It’s all in the details.
How often have you started on a new project, just to later find out that you and the other individuals involved had slightly different perspectives of what the goals of that project were? Our team worked closely with People’s Center from day one to clearly identify the goal of the project, as well the deliverables and deadlines related to the overarching goal. By doing this work upfront, we were able to work more efficiently, which was essential with the tight timeline we had to complete this project.
Delegate for success.
Projects can quickly feel overwhelming once the various tasks and responsibilities are identified. Especially with the varying – and extremely busy – schedules of everyone involved, it was imperative that we delegate tasks upfront, and create a defined communication strategy for monitoring progress.
Mandate clarity in communication.
Did I mention that everyone involved with this project had busy schedules? Honestly, that’s a bit of an understatement. The reality is, everyone is busy! So, when working through complex projects, it is particularly important to lay out a clear plan on how to communicate throughout the project. For our team, we chose a project leader who managed all ongoing communication with People’s Center, and then we attended weekly check-in meetings with representatives from the organization. This ensured that all important details were communicated clearly.
Tie milestones to firm deadlines.
In some cases, the end date for a project may be flexible. However, oftentimes there is a firm end date (i.e. MBA graduation!). Distinguish key milestones of the project, and tie those to firm deadlines. And, if for some reason a deadline isn’t met, have a backup plan for editing the project in order to stay on track.
Be firm, but be flexible.
When we began the project, the goal was to have finalized documents outlining the wellness center brand, strategy, and tactical marketing plan. Due to a combination of variables, it quickly became evident that this goal was not realistic. As we progressed through the project and came across various obstacles, we communicated the changes to the initial scope of work, and then identified and executed the tasks necessary to accomplish the revised goals. In any project, there will be unforeseen obstacles. It is crucial to have processes in place for identifying these obstacles, and making a plan to overcome them.
Avoid scope creep.
From the excitement of the overarching goals to assumptions of a client, scope creep is all too common within projects. To avoid this, it is vital to have a detailed scope of work at the start of the project, along with clear processes for how the team will work around any hurdles that occur within the project timeframe.
Make the most with what you have.
As our group realized that our original project goals were unrealistic based on a number of variables, we changed direction and created a comprehensive workbook for each deliverable. People’s Center can easily work through each of these workbooks when they are ready to take on marketing efforts. In any project, keep an open mind for new opportunities, and make the most with what you have. Oftentimes, the end result is even better than what you had initially planned.
Create a continuation plan.
Our capstone project was just the beginning for People’s Center! There is still so much work to do before launching the wellness center, not to mention the importance of sustainability once the doors are open to the public. When there is an end date to a project, make the work that you’ve done “user friendly.” Consider who will be using the deliverables you’ve created, and create clear guides for them to be able to utilize the deliverables for long-term success.
Project Team Members:
- Casey Johnson
- Emily Gullickson
- Katie Cummings
- Brittany Woitas
Written by Brittany Woitas
Brittany was in cohort 4, and graduated in August 2017. She owns 507 Creative Group, a small marketing firm based out of Mankato, MN. When she’s not working with her [amazing] clients, you can find her kayaking on the river or bicycling to a brewery. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.